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“The Canon of American Legal Thought” – From a European perspective

Target group of this course being held in the Spring term 2008 at the university of St. Gallen are students of the Master-Level, who are able to read legal texts in English efficiently. The content consists of a representative selection of key texts, which belong to The Canon of American Legal Thought and of scientific introductions of the individual texts by the editors of the book.

Reading of these very important texts of American Legal Thought, which every American Legal Scholar is assumed to have read at least once which, are accessible in the book in full text and not, as usual, in excerpts.

The goal is to expose the students to respect to substance and teaching method as it used in an American Law School, including the intensive reading of the texts in English, the respective preparation of the classes, the class participation in a modified Socratic teaching method and the exam culture.

The purpose is to be able work on a methodological meta-level based on key texts, which as the editors write, are of paramount importance, since “many of the tools of legal structure that lawyers, and policy makers use every day and take for granted, are originated in these texts as a dramatic intellectual innovation”.

An important purpose is the showing of the interconnection between history and politics of the evolution of american Legal Thought and american Legal Policies. Students should realize and discover a strong intellectual theoretical culture in American Legal Thought

A further purpose from an interdisciplinary perspective is to realize how political theory, sociology, psychology and above all economics, as they are reflected in certain of the texts, become part of the American Legal Thought and make a major contributions to the understanding “how law works from the inside”

A last purpose from a European perspective is, to at least in the form of an issue spotting discover the most basic differences in the legal system, in which the participants have been exposed to in their Bachelor and Master Program semesters at the University of St. Gallen so far.

The course replicates regarding to substance, teaching method a course, which preparation, traditionally is being taught by one of the editors of the book “The Canon of American Legal Thought” at Harvard Law School.

It is planned to hold video-conferences at the beginning and at the end of the course with Professors David Kennedy and William Fischer III, in which the Professor Drolshammer will interview his colleagues on the concept of history of American Legal Thought; this has proven attractive and helpful in the course offered in summer semester 2005 with Alan Dershowitz, based upon his book “America on trial-Inside The Legal Battle That Transformed Our Nation”.

In the centre will be the reading and the prepared discussions in class of the 20 articles contained in the book, with short introductions and remarks by the professor.

Parallel optional reading of a short introductory book by Peter Hay into the American Legal System and the American Legal Thought in order to be better able to put the texts contained in the book in context and perspective.

Possible developing of a overview document on the essentials of the texts to be read according to assigned roles by the professor; this has been proven helpful in the course on the book of Alan M. Dershowitz “America On Trial-Inside The Legal Battle That Transformed Our Nation” and has been a useful as a learning tool for the exams.

Replication of the didactic method and the examination culture of an American Law School.

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